Pete Buttigieg argues Chinese spy balloon was ‘handled appropriately’

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FILE – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks before the arrival of President Joe Biden at the construction site of the Hudson Tunnel Project, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in New York. Nearly 50 businesses and nonprofits including rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, industrial giant 3M and automaker Honda are pledging millions of dollars in initiatives to stem a “crisis” in road fatalities under a new federal effort announced Friday, Feb. 3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) John Minchillo/AP

Pete Buttigieg argues Chinese spy balloon was ‘handled appropriately’

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended the Biden administration’s handling of the suspected Chinese spy balloon that hovered over United States airspace for days.

Buttigieg pointed to the debris field that formed after the device was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet Saturday and contended that the military took appropriate precautions to ensure minimal harm to civilians.

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“The President called for this to be dealt with in a way that balanced all of the different risks. That’s exactly what happened. Military did a terrific job,” Buttigieg said on CNN’s State of the Union. “That’s something that was done based on assessment of the risks, making sure that there was no risk that outweighed the risks in terms of any damage that would come. It was handled appropriately.”

The balloon is believed to have hovered over the United States and Canadian airspace for roughly eight days before the military shot it down. The Pentagon divulged the existence of the high-altitude balloon, which carried a suspected payload of multiple busloads, last Thursday after local media outlets reported its existence.

Many have speculated that the balloon flew over sensitive military infrastructure including nuclear missile silos to collect intelligence for China.

China has denied that the balloon was used for surveillance purposes and claimed it was a civilian aircraft used for meteorological purposes that veered off course. The Pentagon has cast doubt on those claims. Beijing has condemned the military strike that took the balloon down.

“The US has made clear this is an unacceptable intrusion into American sovereignty. And I think you can expect that any further developments will be appropriate in response to what happened,” Buttigieg added.

Republicans have roundly criticized the Biden administration for not taking action against the balloon sooner and have questioned whether there have been other occurrences of high-altitude Chinese balloons penetrating U.S. airspace in the past. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his trip to China amid the developments.

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Buttigieg also shrugged off the possibility of him vying for the seat vacated by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in 2024. Buttigieg recently moved to Michigan from Indiana, fueling speculation about a possible run. He also previewed President Biden’s State of the Union address slated for Tuesday.

“There was a lot of almost snickering when the President took office saying that it would be possible to deliver historic infrastructure legislation, historic economic legislation, and do it on a bipartisan basis. But that’s what happened. And so I think the hand continues to be outstretched to anyone, including anyone across the aisle,” Buttigieg said.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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